What Are Trichomes and How Are They Beneficial to Plants?


Plants definitely need to protect themselves against pests, diseases, and elements of weather. In cannabis plants, trichomes play an effective shielding role thanks to their bitter taste and strong scents. But besides that, they also play an important role in determining when you should harvest your cannabis plant, depending on the species. So, what are trichomes and how are they beneficial to plants?

What Are Trichomes?

They are tiny outgrowths that are mainly found on the plant’s surface. That’s why they are sometimes referred to as microscopic hair but they can also be thorns. In cannabis plants, trichomes usually store cannabinoids and terpenes. In this case, they are mainly found in the leaves and buds of the cannabis plant and tend to have a crystalline appearance.

Types of Trichomes

There are different types of trichomes each with distinct characteristics. Some of these trichomes are common on cannabis plants compared to others. However, they all have important roles to play. The common types of trichomes include:

Glandular Trichomes

They are known to secrete certain substances in their glands i.e., “heads”. Glandular trichomes in three main types and include:

  • Capitate-Stalked Trichomes: They usually measure around 50-100 micrometers wide. They are the largest in size in this group and, therefore, quite easy to notice. Capitate-stalked trichomes have relatively large stalks with terpene-rich glands and a sizable number of cannabinoids.
  • Capitate-Sessile Trichomes: They are smaller in size and usually measure around 20-30 micrometers wide. Capitate-sessile trichomes have stalks but they are relatively shorter. It should be noted that they have glands with a smaller number of compounds.
  • Bulbous Trichomes: They have a microscopic size of 10-15 micrometers wide. Bulbous trichomes don’t have stalks and they tend to cover the plant’s entire surface. Their smaller size means that they contain fewer compounds as well.

Non-Glandular Trichomes

They don’t have glands and they, therefore, don’t have cannabinoids or other beneficial compounds. However, these trichomes still have other benefits.

  • Unicellular Trichomes: Normally protect the plant from water loss due to extreme temperature changes. The single-celled trichomes are significantly small in size hence you can’t see them without a microscope.
  • Cystolithic Trichomes: They are known to appear earlier during the cannabis plant’s life. These trichomes tend to look similar to their unicellular counterparts. However, they are quite large and come with a special type of outgrowth on their cell walls. As a result, they are rough to touch but are effective in protecting the cannabis plant against predators.
  • Aetherial Sessile Trichomes: They are mostly found in the anthers as well as the surrounding calyx region. These trichomes measure around 80 micrometers wide and they are, therefore, the largest type of sessile trichomes.

The Life Cycle of Trichomes

The Life Cycle of Trichomes

Trichomes have their own development cycle, just like the plants that they grow on. They are known to sync up with the growth cycle of the cannabis plant. But you will only notice their first real changes 3 to 4 weeks into the flowering phase. At this point, you need to pay more attention to them because soon they will be ready for harvesting.

How to Determine Trichomes’ Harvesting Time

How do you know if your trichomes are ready for harvesting? Well, there are certain physical characteristics that you can observe. For instance, you need to check one of these three hues: amber, cloudy, and clear. Well, if the trichomes are clear, then it means that they are not ready for harvest. At this point, they are still producing resin that will be pushed into their glands. This simply means that their glands aren’t filed with resin yet. In case you decide to harvest them at this point, chances are that a smoker won’t feel much of the resin.

However, once you see cloudy hues, then the trichomes have the optimal amount of resin. This is when you should harvest them. Trichomes harvested at this time usually make smokers experience a strong head high. Take note that if you are growing the cannabis Sativa variety, you need to harvest the trichomes as soon as possible.

But in case you delay, then the trichomes will soon turn to amber. If you are growing a cannabis Sativa variety, then you should consider harvesting your trichomes at this time. An Indica variety with amber trichomes usually produces great highs with excellent relaxing and therapeutic effects. The smoker is more likely to end up feeling sleepy rather than experiencing a stimulating and uplifting effect.

Read Next: How to Grow Cannabis Indoors: Everything You Need to Know

Benefits of Trichomes

Trichomes are versatile parts of the cannabis plant and they come with lots of desirable compounds. They are effective in protecting plants against environmental damage from elements of weather and pests. The main benefits of trichomes include:

Offering Defense Against Abiotic Elements

During the flowering phase, most female cannabis plants are usually fragile. Exposure to various environmental elements including wind, heat, and UV light usually poses a threat to them.  However, trichomes usually help to protect them against these harmful threats. They effectively cover the plant’s surface and ensure they don’t lose water, are cool, and can sufficiently reflect the dangerous UV rays.

Defense Against Animals and Pests

Trichomes are highly effective in fighting the natural elements of weather as well as offering defense against animals and pests. Generally, flowering cannabis plants can attract pests and insects. However, trichomes have beneficial chemical compounds that repel these animals and pests. They have a powerful aroma with a sour taste and this is incredible in deterring many species.

The Bottom Line

These tiny outgrowths found protruding from the buds of the cannabis plant have great protective benefits. But besides shielding the plant, they can also help the farmer determine the harvesting time depending on the hues. This is because the hues can help to determine the level of cannabinoids in the plant. they have a lifecycle, just like the cannabis plant, and it’s, therefore important that you harvest them right on time!

About the author

Joyana feels that with the strains, everything is possible, and you should only reproduce what makes you happy. Her 10 years of writing experience comes after studying mass media and communications at the University of Toronto in Canada. Everything about strains can be confusing and difficult to comprehend, but she simplifies the issue of strains in words with top-notch research and in-depth experience in the area, and you receive the proper information with his easy write-up. Olivia adores children, and she spends her free time bringing delicious presents to the children's home, such as chocolates and cookies.

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